Over the last few years, whistleblowers and ex-employees of top social networking companies have begun to shed light on the dark sides of social networking sites.
Profits Over Protection
Just last week Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, testified before a Senate subcommittee. She argued that Facebook consistently chooses to maximize its growth rather than implement safeguards on its platforms.
Of particular concern is the impact on children by Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Haugen leaked Facebook studies which showed that:
- 13.5% of U.K. teen girls say their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram
- 17% of teen girls say their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram
- About 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse
The Social Dilemma
Haugen is not the first ex-employee who has raised these concerns.
In the excellent movie, The Social Dilemma, several former employees of these top social networking companies spoke out. The same people who helped develop many of the social networking sites we use today (Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) came forward to sound an alarm on their own creations.
We titled this post after the movie’s powerful tagline: the technology that connects us also controls us.
Some have called The Social Dilemma “the most important documentary of our time,” and we personally believe that every adult, parent and (age-appropriate) child should view it.
According to Tristan Harris, a former Google executive featured in the movie: “If something is a tool, it genuinely is just sitting there, waiting patiently. If something is not a tool, it’s demanding things from you. It’s seducing you, it’s manipulating you, it wants things from you… Social media isn’t a tool waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing them by using your psychology against you.”
As rates of anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide continue to skyrocket, this is not something we can ignore any longer.
- The number of teen girls admitted to the hospital for non-fatal self-harm (cutting or otherwise harming themselves) is up 62% for girls age 15-19 and 189% for girls age 10-14 since 2009
- U.S. suicide rates are up 70% for teen girls age 15-19 and 151% for girls age 10-14, compared to the 2001-2010 average
It has become abundantly clear to us that:
- Social media is designed to be addictive
- Our children are at risk
- It is up to us to first learn and then teach how to use social media and electronic devices safely
“Using” Technology Safely
Did you know that there are only two industries that call their customers “users”? The illegal drug and the software industry.
Think about it: we don’t pay for the sites that we use; the advertisers do. So, that makes the advertisers the customers and we, the “users,” are the product being sold. Our attention is the product. The gradual change in our behavior and emotion is the product.
This means that if we choose to be “users” of this technology, it is up to us to understand how to interact with it safely.
We have been talking about this topic for years in our blog posts, with our clients, and in our group programs.
We want to share some of these resources again and give you the tools to explore your personal relationship with technology—as well as encourage you to look thoughtfully at your children’s relationship with social media and digital devices.
We Recommend the Following Posts
Whose Thoughts Are You Thinking?
In this post, Debbie explores her personal relationship with social media sites and digital devices. You will be asked questions so that you, too, can contemplate your relationship to this technology.
Talking With Your Kids About Digital Media & Electronic Devices
Our goal in writing this post is to share the topics and talking points that we brought to our own family discussion, and to encourage you to start a dialogue with your own children.
This post helps you plan for a “digital detox”: a period of time when you refrain from using devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets, and/or social media sites. We also discuss ways to interweave tech-free hours into your daily life and start to create a better tech-life balance.
Wonderful, insightful piece! If I share it on Facebook, does that negate the premise? This is so well written, it should be disseminated.
Thank you so much!! I’d love for you to post it.
I agree this info needs to be shared…
Thank you for being brave enough to step up and talk about social media and it’s inherent dangers – especially to our young. SM has become a powerful, but dangerous place and all parents should be involved in what their children are hearing, seeing, and sharing. I see young people walking together in a group and not one of them is talking to each other, but are stuck to their phones. I see families together and all of them on their cell phones – not talking to each other. I see young mothers with their babies in the stroller and they are either texting or talking on their phones. So very sad!
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I agree with everything you said…
Appreciating the time and effort you put into your blog and
detailed information you offer. It’s great to come
across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Fantastic read!
I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.
I was moved by your article on social media. I’ve definitely been evaluating the role social media plays in my emotions/thoughts/relationship feelings.
Thanks for writing this post! I have been aware of the dangers of technology and social media (particularly on kids) since I had my first child 12 years ago. Since then we have made a deliberate effort to severely limit our use of technology, particularly for the very young. I’ve seen babies as young as 3-6 months with phones or tablets shoved at them to (essentially) make them shut up. This is so dangerous for their brain and human development! Unfortunately, I don’t think we will see the full results of this error for several years… but we can clearly see how even adults have lost their basic abilities to socialize well, and many are addicted without knowing it, preferring social reality and the consumption of content to actual human relationships.
Thank you so much for calling attention to this crisis!!
I think it should also be pointed out that we as human beings have an innate emptiness and longing, ultimately for God. Society doesn’t want to discuss this, it merely exploits the longing for the purpose of getting us to consume what they are selling: goods, food, social status, recreation, and other temporary comforts. Yet the human person cannot be happy without God, so when we try to fill the hole with things that don’t fit, we fall into despair believing we are not meant for happiness at all.
If we want to fix the drug addiction, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide problems, we must begin directing people to find their meaning in God. He is the only thing that will ultimately satisfy.
I very much agree that technology/constant distraction is causing many of us to lose the ability to fully connect – to ourselves, to others, and to the greater universe.
Thank you for taking the time to comment…we really appreciate it!